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Grassroots Bulletin

January Newsletter


Con Edison Smart Grid Projects a Smart Investment   

 

In 2009 Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Act) to help boost the economy and establish new incentives for businesses to create jobs.  At the time, the Stimulus Act was estimated to cost $787 billion and more recent revisions value the bill at $831 billion.

The Act contained $21.5 billion allocated to energy infrastructure and, of that, $4.1 billion was targeted to improve and modernize the electric grid. Con Edison won support for multiple projects under the program, including the expansion of transmission and distribution smart grid investments ($280 million); a smart grid demonstration pilot in Queens ($6 million); and participation in a New York State demonstration project ($111 million).

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), for every $1 million invested under the stimulus grants the country’s Gross Domestic Product expanded by $2.5 - $2.6 million. Specifically, the DOE analyzed a portion of all the smart grid investments and concluded that the $2.96 billion investment across the smart grid vendors generated $6.8 billion in economic output and at least 47,000 jobs.

As Con Edison’s projects near completion, the value of the investments has become clear.  As of fall 2013, Con Edison has demonstrated the following benefits from the Stimulus Act projects:

Increased System Reliability 
• 46% reduction in the risk of major outages in targeted underground distribution networks
• 28% reduction in customer interruption rate on targeted overhead circuits

Expanded System Monitoring & Control 
• 300% increase in feeder sectionalizing capability across the underground distribution system
• 230% increase in underground transformer monitoring capability
• 75% increase in distribution SCADA system capacity
• 35% increase in automated feeder restoration capability on overhead distribution system

Increased Cybersecurity
• Implemented new cybersecure SCADA systems to enable two way communication and control
• Implemented comprehensive cybersecurity controls and risk assessment methodologies for smart grid investments

Job Creation
• 160 new jobs created for smart grid implementation
• Additional jobs created with equipment manufacturers and vendors

Reduced Carbon Footprint  
• Reduction in CO2 emissions by 3,642 metric tons
• Over 18,300 avoided truck rolls

As added smart grid project benefits are realized, Con Edison will share lessons learned and system improvements with utilities around the country as well as the federal government.  For more information on the Stimulus Act smart grid program, click here.




Empire State Focuses on Economic Development   

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) Board of Trustees last month approved another round of low-cost power allocations under the state’s ReCharge NY (RNY) program. The nearly 33 megawatts (MW) of low-cost power will be distributed among 47 enterprises at 53 facilities and are expected to leverage an estimated $1 billion in capital investments. Nearly 17,000 jobs are being supported by this round of allocations.

This is the seventh round of power allocations under the RNY program, which stems from legislation signed in 2011. The program, administered by NYPA, is designed to spur economic development throughout the state by providing low-cost power to businesses and other entities that agree to create or retain jobs.

Including the December allocations, the program has provided approximately 735 MW to 533 businesses and 70 not-for-profit organizations over the last two years. (One megawatt is enough power to meet the needs of 800 to 1,000 typical homes.) In addition to jobs and capital investment commitments, other evaluation criteria for ReCharge NY applications include the significance of the cost of electricity to the overall cost of doing business, and a recipient’s commitment to energy efficiency.

The ReCharge NY program offers up to seven-year power contracts to businesses. Half of the power under the program—455 MW—is from NYPA’s Niagara and St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt hydroelectric power plants.

Also related to the Empire State’s economic development effort, last month $715.9 million was awarded through Round Three of the New York State Regional Economic Development Council initiative.

The Regional Councils were put in place in 2011 and designed to encourage a community-based, performance-driven approach to economic development. The Councils are public-private partnerships composed of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia and local government.  The initiative is intended to bring various stakeholders together in each region of the state to develop strategic plans specifically tailored to a region's unique strengths and resources.

Highlights of economic development funding projects awarded in the New York City / Westchester area in Round Three include:

New York City: Regional Council Awardee – $57.4 million
• $3,500,000 to support infrastructure improvements near the St. George Ferry Terminal to encourage new mixed-use development. The project will consist of the construction of a multi-purpose retail outlet center, hotel, restaurants, event space, parking, and state-of-the-art outdoor features – e.g. green roofs, waterfront plazas and esplanade.

• $1,500,000 for construction improvements at Lighthouse Point. The project will consist of the construction of a waterfront esplanade including retail shops, restaurants, a hotel, and nearly 100 residential units housed in historic buildings along a waterfront esplanade.

• $500,000 to the New York Botanical Gardens for program expansion and improved accessibility for visitors and residents of surrounding communities. The East Gate Visitor Accessibility and Green Zone Project will directly expand the Garden’s ability to serve audiences and provide programming throughout the year, in addition to improving access to and from surrounding communities and to visitors from all parts of the city via two MTA subway lines and bus lines.

• $225,000 to the Alliance for Coney Island, for improvements to the tourism initiative “The One and Only Coney.” The campaign aims to draw tourists by marketing and expanding seasonal events and programs that will reintroduce Coney Island as America’s Playground, furthering the appeal of Coney Island as a tourism destination.

• $250,000 to establish the Queens Tech Incubator at the Schutzman Center for Entrepreneurship at Queens College. Queens Tech will be an anchor for tech innovation, job creation, community building, and economic development. The incubator will provide workspace for tech entrepreneurs and startups, offer education and events to build the tech workforce, and support emerging companies through business services.  


Preparing NYC for Future Storms and Extreme Weather

 

Mayor Bill de Blasio faces several challenges and critical long-term issues as he begins his first term, including the all-important question of how best to prepare New York City for future storms and extreme weather.

Excerpted from his recent public position papers, Mayor de Blasio’s vision for rebuilding and preparing the city for the future includes:  

Support Community-based Disaster Preparedness (CBO):  Harness the power of CBOs in preparation for the next major disaster. This includes (1) formalizing a collaborative plan that integrates CBOs into the City’s emergency management plan and ensures training for these groups, (2) enhancing communications networks to facilitate better coordination and distribution of supplies through CBOs, and (3) strengthen on-site coordination through the creation of neighborhood specific emergency plans.

Increase Resiliency in Our Neighborhoods: The City needs to do a lot of targeted upgrades in every community, from armored stone shoreline protections in Coney Island to hardening vulnerable overhead power lines in Queens against winds, in order to protect local assets from the multiple threats of flood, rains, drought, windstorm and a host of other threats where general resilience, not any single solution, will be the key factor to weathering the next storm.

Expand Natural Storm Barriers and Protections
: Tidal wetlands serve many functions, from filtering water going out to sea, to perhaps its most important purpose, slowing and storing rising storm waters that could cause damage on shore. Sand dunes, especially ones with dune grass, played a vital role in sheltering communities from high winds and seawater.

Upgrade and Strengthen the City’s Infrastructure: Using both disaster relief funds and additional resources from the state and federal government, coordinate financing for the construction, rehabilitation, replacement and expansion of infrastructure – maximizing the use or public funds while also mobilizing private sector resources.

Rebuild Smarter by Embracing Green and Flood-resistant Technologies: As the rebuilding process continues, New York City has an opportunity to upgrade construction to improve the long-term resilience of our communities. Ensure that new buildings meet new green energy and resiliency standards, while the City will provide long-term loans, using recovery funds and anticipated energy savings, to assist retrofitting older buildings. The City will adjust zoning to allow greater height in flood zones to account for elevating buildings and more resilient multi-unit housing to replace more vulnerable low-lying housing in flood zones.

Improve Resiliency of Power Systems:  We need to embrace green technology and modernize our electrical system to increase efficiency and create redundancies, while reducing consumer energy demand and using smart meters to ease power management in times of emergency. By rebuilding schools with backup solar power systems, they can serve as energy-independent emergency centers during future storms or blackouts.

Exercise National Leadership on Fighting Climate Change: Help lead other mayors and grassroots organizations across the country to demand national politicians enact the legislation and policies needed to radically reduce carbon use nationwide over the coming decades to limit the causes, not just the consequences, of climate change.   


An Interview with Congressman Chris Gibson

Chris Gibson represents the 19th Congressional District of New York. His broad district runs from just south of Schenectady to north of Poughkeepsie. Representative Gibson also represents portions of the Orange & Rockland service territory.

Chris Gibson grew up in a working class family in Columbia County, in the town of Kinderhook. The son of a union man, Chris attended local public school Ichabod Crane and was the Point Guard and Co-Captain of the High School Basketball Team.

At 17, Chris enlisted in the New York National Guard and later earned an ROTC Commission at nearby Siena College. The first in his family to go to college, Chris graduated magna cum laude with a BA in History. He later earned an MPA and PhD in Government from Cornell University and is the author of Securing the State, a book on national security decision-making published in 2008.

Over the course of his 24 year Army career, Chris rose to the rank of Colonel and deployed seven times. This included four combat tours to Iraq, and separate deployments to Kosovo, the Southwestern US for a counter-drug operation, and most recently - just prior to his retirement - Haiti where he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) during the opening month of that humanitarian relief operation. The Secretary of the Army awarded the BCT the Superior Unit Award for their actions in Haiti.

After retiring from the Army in 2010, Chris and his family returned home to Kinderhook and now live around the corner from where he grew up and his mom still lives. He was elected to represent the 20th Congressional District in 2010 and re-elected in 2012 to represent the 19th Congressional District.

In Congress, Chris serves on the House Armed Services Committee (Subcommittees: Tactical Air and Land Forces; Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities; Military Personnel), the House Agriculture Committee (Subcommittees: General Farm Commodities and Risk Management; Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit), and the Republican Policy Committee.

What role do you see New York playing in our country’s energy future?
New York has an exciting role to play in our country’s energy future.  We have several leading industries in the state that have pioneered new technology.  From General Electric to smaller-scale energy storage and solar manufacturing, the state’s diverse energy sector will continue to play a role in the energy marketplace.  I have authored legislation to support the growing field of energy storage technology that allows us to improve our transmission system and increase the use of renewables on the grid.  In addition, I have also worked on legislation to simplify and improve the tax credit for fuel-cell power vehicles. 

Our state is also home to exciting public-private partnerships that have led to a significant investment in nano-technology throughout the Albany area.  The SUNY College of Nanoscale and Engineering has expanded a cutting edge initiative that combines academic research with industry research and development.   It is vital that we learn from the models that have been successful in the state and support growing sectors within the market.  This will help create jobs, reduce energy costs, support renewables, and increase our energy independence. 
 
How does being a Member of the Agriculture Committee allow you to help your district?
The Committee’s jurisdiction is broad, and includes oversight over portions of the Dodd-Frank Wall St. reform law that was passed in 2010.  As important financial reforms are implemented, the Committee has worked on a bipartisan basis to ensure that non-financial entities maintain their ability to hedge market risk.  This is particularly relevant to the energy sector, where utilities and other non-bank end-users were facing potentially harmful price increases that get passed down to consumers.  So in addition to energy programs run out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the House Agriculture Committee has been an effective place to address New York’s energy needs and challenges and protect consumers from unintended rate increases. 
 
How has your work with ‘No Labels’ - a non-partisan group of lawmakers focused on common-sense problem solving in Congress- impacted the often-partisan nature of Congress?
All of my life, I have been focused on mission accomplishment.  During the 24 years I served in the United States Army, rising to the rank of Colonel, I saw how even in challenging situations, we could come together to make progress.  Unfortunately, in Congress, too often Members retreat into partisan corners and focus only on where they disagree.  No Labels is about changing that – a group of over 80 Republican and Democrats, across the ideological spectrum, that are focusing on where they agree and can come together to solve problems.  Already, we’ve made a difference – with the Congress passing No Label’s “No Budget, No Pay” bill, which resulted in the Senate passing a budget for the first time in four years.  During the government shutdown, we met every day, ultimately forcing Congressional leadership to negotiate and to end the shutdown.
 
By building bipartisan relationships between parties, I think we will get to a Congress that is more effective and efficient.  I’ve teamed up with some of my No Labels colleagues to introduce legislation to that effect – one bill, the 21st Century Healthcare for Heroes Act, would bridge the gap between the Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense health record systems, helping our veterans get better care.  Another would reduce waste, fraud and abuse regarding benefits paid out to Americans who have already died, but never had government benefit records updated.
 
By taking small steps forward, I’m hopeful that ultimately we’ll be able to come together to find long-term solutions to the many challenges facing our nation and stop the gridlock in Washington.  
 

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